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Changes to the 3rd grade soccer starting in Fall 2015

We wanted to publish a note explaining some small improvements that will take place for the Fall 2015 Grade 3 soccer group. For the past 4 years, Dover Sherborn Soccer Club has retained a professional soccer advisor in the form of our Director of Coaching role, aka “DOC”. This has provided over this time a curriculum for team practices, educational resources and training sessions for our volunteer coaches and weekly support for all of our community in our effort to develop players while providing a fun, respectful and rewarding soccer experience. This has brought rewards and the grade cohorts passing through our programs are both numerous and increasingly more developed every year as they have their soccer fun. We try to think every year about how we can continue to help all our players and families in their enjoyment of and development in the sport. We have encouraged teams to run post-match pizza parties on the field, we have arranged end-of-season all-grade mix-‘em-all-up scrimmage fun nights, and arranged for Revs players and mascots to be at the fields for our youngest players. It’s all about the fun and all about the children having as much fun playing their soccer.

How our players have as much fun as possible as they play their soccer is clearly something we think about a lot. In recent years, our 3rd grade teams have played in a small league with teams from Westwood, Canton and Walpole, where teams are fully balanced i.e. each team with an equal mix of players of all development stages. This has been a half step from our intramural K-2 programs to 4th grade where levelled teams are formed (A,B,C,D etc). What we have seen with these balanced teams and also with the current 2nd grade intramural balanced teams program is that the players at an earlier development stage are not touching the ball enough. Research says that if children give up soccer, it is around the age of 14 and one of the reasons is because they personally do not feel they have the skills to play the game. If all of our players are not touching the ball enough, then they will not connect with the sport and feel they can play it sufficiently to stay with the sport. More touches on a soccer ball is akin to catching a baseball or shooting a basketball. More helps a lot. Clearly, children decide not to play sports for any number of reasons but if a child left soccer because they did not feel they could play the sport, we as a Club would not have done our job.

We researched how other towns of similar size approached this and when we talked to Wayland, a solution presented itself for a different and gentle half step to full levelling. In Wayland (pop. 12,000 versus DS at 9,500), the cohort of 3rd grade youth soccer players are cut in half when teams are to be formed. A half of more developed players and a half with players at an earlier stage of development. Normally this is for a group of 40-45 players. Then two equal balanced teams are formed from each half. All four teams are entered into the BAYS (Boston Area Youth Soccer) league for Metrowest players. At this age group, BAYS has no Division 1 or Division 4, but only Division 2 or 3, each with many sections. Wayland entered their teams all into Division 3. Two in an upper section of the division and two in a lower section. For the players in the teams formed of players at an earlier stage of development, this results in a significant enhancement of the experience – they are playing with players of a similar development stage and against opposing players with similar skills. This means they touch the ball more when their team plays a game, they have a chance to pass the ball more often, have the chance to score more frequently and connect with the sport more deeply. This would be in stark contrast to a game day experience in a balanced team where two or three more developed players have the vast majority of touches on the ball and a large number of the other players  are bypassed and barely receive a chance to kick the ball. Furthermore, for players playing in the teams formed from players at a more advanced stage of development, this will also provide a more appropriate soccer environment for their 3rd grade.

From the start of Fall 2015, Dover Sherborn Soccer 3rd graders will be playing in teams formed along similar lines.

Please be aware that we know that players develop at different speeds and at different stages of their growing years. DS Soccer teams are re-formed at the start of every Fall and Spring season based on our volunteer coaches evaluation sheets and our DOC input - and ,from the end of Grade 3 onwards, an independent, blind evaluation tryout session with external evaluators.


If you have any questions on this, please contact the boys or girls coordinators, found on our DS Soccer website contacts section here.